STILLWATER - A Minnesota judge didn't doubt the the progress a confessed drug dealer had made in treatment, but said those steps weren't enough to avert a prison sentence.
Washington County District Court Judge John McBride sentenced Karl R. Heinrichs on Monday, Dec. 4, to six years in prison - four of which must be spent behind bars. The Stillwater man, arrested last year after a sting that involved both Minnesota and Wisconsin authorities, pleaded guilty in June to second-degree drug sales.
Heinrichs pleaded guilty Nov. 9 in St. Croix County to felony drug possession with intent to deliver. He faces a maximum penalty there of 19 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Heinrichs, who drew a measure of celebrity through his "Sir Death" alter-ego he transformed into at Vikings games as part of the Vikings World Order fan group, was arrested in September 2009. Authorities said he was stopped with 31 pounds of pot and nine pounds of marijuana wax in his vehicle during a Stillwater traffic stop. A search of a storage unit he used in Houlton turned up another 134 pounds of pot, according to the Wisconsin charges.
During Monday's sentencing - the third such hearing in the case, after a last-minute revelation derailed the previous hearing in October - Heinrichs begged for mercy from McBride. He described how a decades-long substance addiction upended his life, including his studies in law school at the University of North Dakota.
"I've never been able to put this behind me," Heinrichs said.
Still, he said progress he's achieved through the Minnesota Adult-Teen Challenge program while on bail has left him a changed man.
"I'm not the same man I was 15 months ago," he told the judge.
Heinrichs asked to be sentenced to the mandatory minimum - three years, saying it would allow him to be closer to family members who need him at a crucial juncture.
"I humbly submit to your authority and beg for your mercy and forgiveness," Heinrichs said to McBride.
The judge acknowledged the hard work Heinrichs had done through the treatment program, but said he wasn't sure if the words of contrition were simply coming from a convict who knew what the judge wanted to hear.
Still, McBride said the sentence represents a break. Though it wasn't the three years Heinrichs was seeking, it's also not the nine years recommended by Assistant Washington County Attorney Karin McCarthy.
"It's very obvious that you were a big player in spreading marijuana around the community," he told Heinrichs, adding that most of the juvenile offenders he sees in court are busted with pot at some point. "I see these lives that are destroyed, and they all start with pot."
Heinrichs initially thought he was poised for a probationary sentence in advance of an Oct. 23 sentencing hearing. However, McCarthy said it was revealed at that hearing that 10 years hadn't elapsed since his probation for a previous drug conviction. That, she said, triggered the mandatory minimum prison sentence.
Heinrichs will be sentenced Jan. 16 in St. Croix County.